AI firm pays people to use their faces in deepfaked corporate videos

A company called HourOne is paying people to "hire out their faces". HourOne will scan you talking and emoting, then use deepfake-style AI to create videos for its corporate customers, making the synthetic version of you say whatever the customer needs you to say.

As MIT Tech Review reports:

To create a character, Hour One uses a high-resolution 4K camera to film a person talking and making different facial expressions in front of a green screen. And that's it for the human part of the performance. Plugging the resulting data into AI software that works in a similar way to deepfake tech, Hour One can generate an endless amount of footage of that person saying whatever it wants, in any language.

One company already using HourOne is the language-learning company Berlitz:

According to Monbiot, Berlitz wanted to increase the number of videos it offered but struggled to do so using real human actors. They had to have production crews creating the same setup with the same actor over and over again, she says: "They found it really unsustainable. We're talking about thousands of videos."

Berlitz now works with Hour One to generate hundreds of videos in minutes. "We're replacing the studio," says Monbiot. "A human being doesn't need to waste their time filming."

Pretty interesting and freaky implications here! There's an obvious labor issue; you wonder how this will affect actor's rates for corporate video. The pro-AI side generally argues this won't be a big problem — that synthetic processes will create a more-plus situation rather than replacement: i.e. it's not that actors will no longer get corporate video jobs, but that companies will use the AI to create far more media than existed before.

I think the pro-AI side is potentially somewhat right here, though their "positive" version of life here is still plenty bleak. As I observed in Wired a while ago (while reporting on auto-dictation's effect on the labor of human transcribers) AI doesn't always destroy the jobs that humans do — but it can certainly make them, and the world we inhabit, more depressing. The most likely outcome of deepfaked auto-acting technology is that companies like HourOne will simply flood the intertubes with uncanny-valley-adjacent talking-heads that hawk products, perform instructional video, and conduct customer "service".

You can check out HourOne's "use cases" page and that's basically what's going on. I mean, if I paid for an online class and it were delivered by a synthetic talking head, autogenerated off printed class materials, I'd be … not super happy? Human teachers, even mediocre ones, do more than just follow the bouncing ball on a piece of text.

Between this, GAN-generated photos and GPT-3-generated text, "synthetic media" is just getting started …